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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An enabling act is a piece of legislation by which a legislative body grants an entity which depends on it for authorization or legitimacy the power to take a certain action(s). For example, enabling acts often establish government agencies to carry out specific government policies in a modern nation state. It is important not to confuse enabling acts from different times and places, since their effects vary widely. It also enables the government to split certain states into two states for a specific purpose


In Germany

In the German Weimar Republic, an Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was a law passed by the Reichstag with a two-thirds majority, by which the government was authorized to legislate without the consent of the Reichstag. These special powers would remain in effect for the specified time. This is to be distinguished from the provisions of Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which allowed the President to legislate by decree in times of emergency, subject to the veto of the Reichstag. An Enabling Act was supposed to be used only in times of extreme emergency. Only two Enabling Acts were ever passed:

  • the first Enabling Act was in force in 1923-24, when the government used an Enabling Act to combat hyperinflation.
  • the second Enabling Act, passed on 23 March 1933, was the second stepping-stone after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which Adolf Hitler obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The formal name of the Enabling Act was Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich ("Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the State"). It carried a four-year sunset clause (and would also have lost force should another government have been appointed) but was renewed in 1937, 1941 and 1944. In contrast to the Article 48 of 1923, this Act covered changes to the constitution, excepting only the existence of the Reichstag, the Reichsrat and the office of President.

In the United Kingdom

In the 1930s, both Sir Stafford Cripps and Clement Attlee advocated an enabling act to allow a future Labour government to pass socialist legislation which would not be amended by normal parliamentary procedures and the House of Lords. According to Cripps, his "Planning and Enabling Act" would not be able to be repealed, and the orders made by the government using the act would not be allowed discussion in Parliament.[1] Cripps also suggested measures against the monarchy, but quickly dropped the idea.[2]

In 1966, Oswald Mosley advocated a government of national unity drawn from "the professions, from science, from the unions and the managers, from businessmen, the housewives, from the services, from the universities, and even from the best of the politicians". This coalition would be a "hard centre" oriented one which would also get Parliament to pass an Enabling Act in order to stop "time-wasting obstructionism of present procedure", as Mosley described it. He also claimed that Parliament would always retain the power to dismiss his government by vote of censure if its policies failed or if it attempted to "override basic British freedoms".[3]

In early 2006, the highly controversial yet little-publicised Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament. This Bill, if enacted into law, would have enabled Government ministers to amend or repeal any legislation (including the L&RR Bill itself), subject to vague and highly subjective restraints, by decree and without recourse to Parliament. The Bill was variously been described as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill" (The Times) and "...of first-class constitutional significance... [and would] markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process" (House of Lords Constitutional Committee, reported in [4]. The Bill is, in essence, an Enabling Act in all but name.

After some amendment by the government and Lords, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006.[5] Amendments included removing its ability to modify itself or the Human Rights Act 1998; most of the other modifications were much more subjectively defined.

In the United States

An enabling act, in reference to the admission of new states into the Union, is legislation passed by Congress authorizing the people of a territory to frame a constitution. The act also lays down the requirements that must be met as a prerequisite to statehood. These Acts have usually been titled "An Enabling Act for a State of (Name)".[6]

Enabling acts of the United States include:

In Venezuela

In Venezuela, enabling laws allowing the President to rule by decree in selected matters have been granted to Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974),[9] Jaime Lusinchi (1984)[10] and Ramón José Velásquez (1993)[11]. In mid 2000 a similar law enabled Hugo Chávez to legislate on issues related to the economy, reorganization of government ministries, and crime for one year. Chávez did not take advantage of this act until shortly before its expiration, when he passed 49 decrees in rapid succession, many of them highly controversial.[12][13][14]

In 2007, a new enabling act was granted to President Chávez, giving the president the ability to rule by decree over certain economic, social, territorial, defense, and scientific matters as well as control over transportation, regulations for popular participation, and rules for governing state institutions for 18 months.[15]


  1. ^ "Is there any Remedy Available?". Ludwig von Mise Institute. Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  2. ^ "Road to Wigan Pier". Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  3. ^ "Oswald Mosley, Briton, Fascist, European". Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  4. ^ Finkelstein, Daniel (15 February 2006). "How I woke up to a nightmare plot to steal centuries of law and liberty". The Times (London).,,6-2040625,00.html. Retrieved 16 January 2007.  
  5. ^ Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill receives Royal Assent, Press release CAB066/06 from the Cabinet Office, 8 November 2006.
  6. ^ Official Name and Status History of the several States and U.S. Territories, (listed)
  7. ^ "Enabling Act". Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Historia de Venezuela en Imágenes. Capítulo VIII 1973 /1983. La Gran Venezuela". La experiencia democrática 1958 / 1998. Fundación Polar. Retrieved 21 January 2007.  (Spanish)
  10. ^ "El tema: Historia democrática venezolana". Globovisión. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 21 January 2007.  (Spanish)
  11. ^ "Ramón José Velásquez Mújica". Centro de Investigación de Relaciones Internacionales y desarrollo. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 21 January 2007.  (Spanish)
  12. ^ "Land for People not for Profit in Venezuela". 23 August 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  13. ^ "Attorney General's Office admits that Venezuelan government exceeded its authority in enacting Enabling Law". 22 July 2004. Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  14. ^ "Venezuela". U.S Department of State. 4 March 2002. Retrieved 29 April 2008.  
  15. ^ "Rule by decree passed for Chavez". BBC News. 19 January 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2007.  

Simple English

This article is about the German law passed in 1933 at the beginning of the Third Reich. For other laws of that name, see Enabling act.

The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The Act enabled Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.

The formal name of the Enabling Act was Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich ("Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Empire").


Enabling Act text

As with most of the laws passed in the process of Gleichschaltung, the Enabling Act is quite short, considering its consequences. It is therefore reproduced in full in German and English:

Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Empire
Der Reichstag hat das folgende Gesetz beschlossen, das mit Zustimmung des Reichsrats hiermit verkündet wird, nachdem festgestellt ist, daß die Erfordernisse verfassungsändernder Gesetzgebung erfüllt sind: The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which is hereby proclaimed with the assent of the Reichsrat, it having been established that the requirements for a constitutional amendment have been fulfilled:
Artikel 1 Article 1
Reichsgesetze können außer in dem in der Reichsverfassung vorgesehenen Verfahren auch durch die Reichsregierung beschlossen werden. Dies gilt auch für die in den Artikeln 85 Abs. 2 und 87 der Reichsverfassung bezeichneten Gesetze. In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich. This includes the laws referred to by Articles 85 Paragraph 2 and Article 87 of the constitution.[1]
Artikel 2 Article 2
Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze können von der Reichsverfassung abweichen, soweit sie nicht die Einrichtung des Reichstags und des Reichsrats als solche zum Gegenstand haben. Die Rechte des Reichspräsidenten bleiben unberührt. Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.
Artikel 3 Article 3
Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze werden vom Reichskanzler ausgefertigt und im Reichsgesetzblatt verkündet. Sie treten, soweit sie nichts anderes bestimmen, mit dem auf die Verkündung folgenden Tage in Kraft. Die Artikel 68 bis 77 der Reichsverfassung finden auf die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Gesetze keine Anwendung. Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government.[2]
Artikel 4 Article 4
Verträge des Reiches mit fremden Staaten, die sich auf Gegenstände der Reichsgesetzgebung beziehen, bedürfen für die Dauer der Geltung dieser Gesetze nicht der Zustimmung der an der Gesetzgebung beteiligten Körperschaften. Die Reichsregierung erläßt die zur Durchführung dieser Verträge erforderlichen Vorschriften. Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies of the legislature. The government of the Reich shall issue the regulations required for the execution of such treaties.
Artikel 5 Article 5
Dieses Gesetz tritt mit dem Tage seiner Verkündung in Kraft. Es tritt mit dem 1. April 1937 außer Kraft, es tritt ferner außer Kraft, wenn die gegenwärtige Reichsregierung durch eine andere abgelöst wird. This law takes effect with the day of its proclamation. It loses force on 1 April 1937 or if the present Reich government is replaced by another.


  1. Article 85 outlined the process by which the Reichstag and Reichsrat approved the Reich budget. Article 87 restricted government borrowing.
  2. Articles 68 to 77 stipulated the procedures for enacting legislation in the Reichstag.

The Enabling Act was passed by the Reichstag on March 23 and proclaimed by the government the following day. Following constitutional procedure for legislation, the law was countersigned by President von Hindenburg, Chancellor Hitler, Minister of Interior Frick, Foreign Minister von Neurath, and Minister of Finance von Krosigk.

Passage of the Enabling Act

The Nazis wrote the Enabling act to gain complete political power without the need of the support of a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners.


Within 24 hours of being appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, Hitler skillfully influenced the outcome by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who wrote:

Now it will be easy to carry on the fight, for we can call on all the resources of the State. Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda.[1]

In the days leading up to the elections, the Nazis organized street violence to intimidate the opposition and to build fear of communism. The burning of the Reichstag six days before the election was the pivotal event of the campaign.


Later that day, the Reichstag assembled under intimidating circumstances, with SA men swarming inside and outside the chamber. Hitler's speech, which emphasised the importance of Christianity in German culture, was aimed particularly at appeasing the Centre Party's sensibilities and almost incorporated Kaas' requested guarantees.

All parties except the SPD voted in favour of the Enabling Act. With the Communist delegates removed and 26 SPD deputies arrested or in hiding, the final vote was 441 supporting the Enabling Act to 94 (all Social Democrats) opposed.


The Communist Party deputies — and a few Social Democratic deputies as well — were already jailed, and the Communist mandates were declared "dormant" by the government shortly after the elections. The remaining free members of parliament were intimidated by the SA surrounding the parliament hall. In the end, only the Social Democrats voted against the bill.

The British tabloid Daily Express described the Jewish reactions of boycott against Germany as "Judea Declares War on Germany" (March 24, 1933).

Presidential consequences

President von Hindenburg seemed to be pleased with Hitler's firm hand. During the cabinet conference on the Enabling Act, von Hindenburg's representative stated that the aged president was withdrawing from day-to-day affairs of government and that presidential collaboration on the laws decreed as a result of the Enabling Act would not be required.

Other pages

  • Enabling act (General)


  1. Shirer, William L. (1959). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-62420-2. 

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